Categotry Archives: A Day in the Life

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Epilogue

Categories: A Day in the Life, But the Past Isn't Done with Us, Strangers on a Train, Tags: , ,

Yesterday, I worked a half-hour later than normal because suddenly things happened right at the end of the day that it seemed best to attend to then and there. Then I went to eat at Chipotle after work, mostly because I was hungry, but also because of new and slightly silly influences laden in the whole nature of yesterday.

So these factors combined to put me on the steps up from the platform of Downtown Berkeley BART about 45 minutes later than normal – at 6:30 instead of 5:45.

Racing up the steps, I heard a voice from one of them, a cautious and inquisitive “Storey…?” And one pretty much can’t mistake that for someone calling to somebody else. I turned around to see an older, taller impersonation of one of my old Seneca kids. Smiling at me and saying hello.

Now I have long envisioned meeting Seneca kids later in life – all grown up or at least much older. And most of the time, the picture involves me losing a number of teeth or worse. Most of these visions are in the context of nightmares – not a week ago I was back on the halls of a Seneca house, somehow training someone else and dealing with one of those bedtime blowout disasters that made us all love the place so dearly. But with all the same kids from ’05, but now three years older and still living in a house designed for those younger than they were at the time. Good times.

But here was not only a kid who had been there back in ’05, but one who had specifically antagonized me more than other staff. Actually a favorite of many of the staff, truth be told, but one who always just had it in for me. Granted, he was one of the least violent and troublesome youth and had actually even been placed before I left. But there was none of the torment or targeting, none of the sour glares I recalled from nearly two years in the house with him. Instead, he smiled and asked me where I worked now. I happened to be dressed up, so it was all too clear I wasn’t still at Seneca. And I guess he was still in the loop over there somehow anyway.

We talked for 2 or 3 minutes; nothing major, nothing earth-shattering. It was a little awkward, but a good comfortable kind of awkward that denotes that you both understand the other is authentically happy to see you, that the awkwardness is space and time and nothing innate. We shook hands at the end, and I told him he’d done well. He has. He’s graduating from 8th grade (he proudly noted that “I stayed in school!”), he’s stayed out of the system, he seemed like a “normal” kid, just sitting with friends on the steps of a BART station, waiting on a train.

While still working at Seneca, there seemed to be a network of information about people. One worked so intensely and closely with kids, so personally, and then they were often whisked away to places unseen, never to return for so much as a visit. Yet still, managers would talk to other centers and people would get grapevine updates. But upon leaving Seneca, one’s connection to information dried up. I mean, I’m sure if I’d stayed close with a bunch of people still working there, it might’ve been different, but in all likelihood, they still wouldn’t have been folks in the know. There’s no way of knowing the rest of the story. How did that person grow up? Did that turn out okay? Did they stay or go?

So it’s nice to get a postscript here and there. To come face to face with the past and have it smile back. To think that maybe, just maybe, something turned out okay in this world.

By the time his train roared into the station, I was gone.

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Just Say No! (or: Do Quit Your Day Job)

Categories: A Day in the Life, Tags:

I would imagine that having a day job is a lot like being a drug addict.

It’s the simile I’m imagining, by the way, not what having a day job is like in the first place. I know all too well what having a day job is like, and my guess is that it’s about as productive, useful, and advantageous to one’s life as being a drug addict. For most people.

Having no experience with drugs, I can only go off other people’s various accounts of them in literature, popular media, and personal discourse. From what I can tell, both drug addiction and day jobs are extremely time-consuming and debilitating experiences that promote a sense of true hopelessness and despair, often overridden by a soft exterior of feelings of familiar comfort. Both instill a demanding routine that will soon leave no room for anything besides the drug/job in one’s life. Both require very little commitment of time and energy up-front, but will eventually enervate one’s soul with unpayable sky-high demands on time and energy. Both thus alienate people from those who are important in their life (replacing them with other, less important characters) as well as from the expenditures of time in their life that would actually provide value or meaning.

Instead, the only pursuit that can be accepted by the drug/job is cyclical self-promotion of the drug/job itself. The day-to-day physical and emotional demands of the drug/job increase exponentially with use, while the payoff of each declines proportionally. More and more energy and exhaustion is required to simply maintain a level of equilibrium, and the days of getting excited about something tied into a drug/job are quickly left behind. While the initial pull was the high/money, the apparent felt value of these declines substantially despite outside thought appearances that they are more and more necessary for existence. The more one has a high or money, the more one thinks one needs it, but the less actually utility one gains by it.

It’s no wonder, then, that we have a society that’s so hooked on day jobs. The same marketing techniques that have kept generations jailed or on the street are keeping vastly more equally enslaved and desperate behind desks or in cubicles. By carefully constructing societal perceptions to present day jobs as a positive and beneficial element of society, there is an additional reinforcement that drugs can never live up to: namely, that one is more likely to be accepted and touted by one’s peers if one does day jobs. While there may be particularly intense communities where drug use achieves the same effect, there is nowhere where this impact is as strong as possession and maintenance of a day job in earning respect from young and old, family and friends, confidants and strangers.

And yet what good does the average day job actually do? Most all jobs in America have been designed around a service and/or consumer economy. Basically the job that most everyone has is to feed things back into the machine that guarantees jobs to others. It’s all founded on the willing (or drug-induced) suspension of disbelief into the fundamental premise that it’s somehow good and/or necessary to have a day job in the first place. Even non-profits seem laden with this innate perspective that people are better off employed than unemployed. And while I can make concessions to the concept that a standard of living beats poverty, I’m having a hard time these days really accepting that employment does anything but devastate quality of life to roughly the tune of a deep-seeded heroin obsession.

But like drugs, day jobs are notoriously hard to escape. Even for people prone to write posts like this, there are numerous insidious factors of socialization, societal structure, and cost of living that make it incredibly difficult to break the cycle of employment. No matter the strength of the desire to walk away, it often takes cataclysmic events (see: May 2005) to get someone to actually break their bonds with a day job. And just like drugs, it is exceedingly hard to stay off day jobs once one has actually managed to break the habit the first time. One is easily coaxed back in by memories of the more positive aspects. The highs stand out, while the lows fade in the grass-is-greener recollections of a turbulent past. One is often drawn back into the same drug/job, but more often a new drug/job that offers new excitements and slight distinctions that color one’s experience and provide the illusion that it won’t be as bad this time.

It will be. It is.

I need rehab.

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Facebook ‘Em

Categories: A Day in the Life, Blue Pyramid News, Upcoming Projects, Tags: , ,

I’ve spent far too much of my weekend trying to develop an application for the much-ballyhooed Facebook. We’re nearing a year since users could create Facebook apps and over five years since the original Country Quiz came out, so I figured: why not combine the two? After all, Facebook only has eleventy-billion members, so there may even be one or two who haven’t taken the Country Quiz already.

The problem is that I’ve never really learned PHP or MySQL. And rapidly, these are leaving HTML in the dust. You say increased functionality, I say decreased usability to require people to pay $100/hour for tech support. Whatever the real motivation (a combo no doubt), wrestling with the edges of what one knows about these things as a self-taught intermittent web designer is roughly as much fun as being the feature entree at a banquet for piranhas, big cats, and twenty-six-foot-high spiders. But perhaps slightly more painful.

This is not necessarily a cry for help. But if any of you have, say, designed a Facebook application in the past or really love explaining PHP to novices, I wouldn’t exactly say no.

With or without assistance, I optimistically (naively?) believe that I can get this thing chunked out before June. Depending on the timelines of other projects (it was, after all, a setback in the new quiz I’m working on that enabled me to thus spend my weekend in the first place). And then I will be begging you all to download and use (read: beta test) my lovely new application.

I’m pretty much set with the whole thing, except getting (A) results into profile boxes and news feeds, (B) view friends’ country functionality, and (C) invitations to friends to add the app.

Which is pretty much everything.

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My Life with Food

Categories: A Day in the Life, But the Past Isn't Done with Us, Tags: ,

Food and I have never been friends.

Food is like that friend one has when one doesn’t have a car, who one doesn’t really like or enjoy spending time with, but they have a car! So you hang out with them and get to go places and do things, but putting up with that person is a real pain in the rear and even makes you question, at times, if going places is all that important after all.

(I never had that friend in real life, by the way. The only people I remember regularly relying on for such were my parents, Fish, and Schneider, and I really like all these people a lot.)

The point is that food and I have a long and often tortuous history. Most of my childhood arguments with my parents were about food (at least those that weren’t about haircuts). I didn’t like it – really, any of it – and while I didn’t enjoy feeling hungry, I often preferred the sensation to what was being passed off as “food” at any given meal. A whole lexicon of dealbreakers on food developed, usually summarized into “green things” by my parents, which referred to most any type of parsleyish seasoning in otherwise almost tolerable edibles. I actually liked a lot of the big “green things” that people refer to with that phrase, such as broccoli, celery, or green beans, but if it was microscopic and green, there was no chance. I really could taste these things (or more often feel them – texture was a big deal) and they really did ruin food. My parents were skeptical that anyone could really detect such things and I think often assumed it was psychological. On these grounds, they tried to leverage my love of the color green into an affinity for “green things”. No dice.

And as one can imagine, I spent my childhood being ridiculously thin. There were many jokes about my profile being invisible and I was always able to squeeze through inhumanly tight spaces (though I did get stuck in a window in the Science Center for a really bad 45 minutes in high school). And always I was told to stretch my stomach, to eat until I could feel the stretching.

But as I have aged, as my father predicted, my hatred for many foods has softened. In large part, it’s just been a process of attrition – I was so often told to try things and so often told to eat as much as possible to “stretch my stomach” that I eventually found more and more foods palatable. I am still the pickiest eater any of my friends know, but the range of things I’ll eat positively dwarfs what I’d consume fifteen years ago and I was only recently able to get away from the idea that I have to eat till I am in physical pain to “stretch” my stomach. After all, I’ve suddenly been putting on weight. And while I’m still on the low end of normal in the much-vaunted BMI (body mass index), I’ve been increasingly troubled by the facts that my gut sticks out and that my thighs now touch each other.

This is a tricky issue to talk about, because people are extremely sensitive about weight and many of them have been pretty much straight-up angry with me when I bring up that I’m starting to worry about mine. I don’t really know what to say about this, except to really try to expound on exactly how much of a non-issue this has not only been for me in the past, but I always assumed it would be in the future. Yes, it was probably silly to assume that I would spend the entire rest of my life effortlessly rail-thin and always able to eat as much as possible of whatever junk I wanted. But at the same time, the same people who told me that this was silly also told me it would be impossible to do this at any time. And yet that was a full quarter-century of my experience – no matter what I ate or how “bad” it was, I never put on weight and never had health problems associated with what I ate. And while we can learn from what others tell us if it resonates with our experience, it’s very hard to do so when others’ advice not only contradicts but actually rules out one’s actual experience.

But the impossible dream expired after about twenty-five years, and suddenly I began to slowly realize that what I was eating actually impacted my body. This had literally never happened before… there had been no relationship between intake and output. I would eat massively or fast and stay exactly stagnant in weight, appearance, and feeling. But suddenly about a year or two ago, I was fluctuating like everybody else.

It’s taken about 18-24 months for me to make some sort of peace with this and realize that I should be proactive in correcting this or face suddenly having to take warnings about obesity seriously. I hasten to add that it’s not that I’m obese now (or even close) or in jeopardy of becoming obese tomorrow (or even the next day). It’s that I have realized, after two years of being mortal in the arena of food, that I will no longer blithely be able to consider myself immune to the concept of obesity for the rest of my life unless I change my habits now.

This is a bit of a struggle, because I really don’t like much food and I really can’t stand planning around the concept of food. Scheduled meal times don’t work for me – I’m usually either full or starving and there’s very little turn-around time between these two states. So I eat when I’m starving and don’t when I’m full. I tend to eat one or two foods over and over and over again until I get sick of it and then move on to the next food. And I basically only eat out, a product of both the starving/full quick-change dichotomy (little time and energy for the protracted food preparation process) and in order to incentivize myself in actually trying to eat instead of just riding out the hunger and winding up with a migraine or something. If eating has a fun component beyond the drudgery of having to consume food, I’m more likely to do it.

I guess you’re wondering at this point how I’m gaining weight when my gut instincts are so adversarial to food. I’ve been wondering too, somewhat incredulously, and this has really kept me from truly facing the issues I’m dealing with regarding food until the last few weeks.

I guess it’s a little like the habits one picks up when one’s single. At first, when one hasn’t ever dealt with a real romantic situation, let alone love, one doesn’t really have any bad habits around the gender of one’s attraction. They’re just people and one may be interested, but has a certain amount of innocence in such interactions; one is ready to be surprised by love.

But once one has had a serious relationship fail, one picks up all kinds of bad habits that become increasingly hard to unlearn. One starts seeing every member of the attractive gender as being a possible interest and gets increasingly focused on this as a daily expenditure of time. It’s almost impossible, no matter how much one may want to, to ever return to that first-love innocence of one’s youth and shed all of the trolling outlook on life one had to learn when one was first bitterly single.

Similarly, I’ve spent so much of my time learning bad habits about food. Not just the stomach stretching thing, but also to associate eating as something to increase and encourage in myself, and sometimes even to seek out more weighty foods in order to not be quite so thin. And now that I’m not only not rail-thin, but am actually over the weight I would consider ideal, it’s trouble. Returning to one’s gut intuition is not as easy as one thinks after spending so much time learning something different.

So now I have to make a plan and rules to get myself back where I want to be. I’ve decided that 130-135 is a reasonable place to be; a place where my gut and thighs would sufficiently recede but people wouldn’t stutter in horror about me just getting off the boat from Somalia. This is even “BMI”-approved… 130 would put me at a BMI of 18.7, when the border between normal and underweight is 18.5. How perfect is that?

After topping out at 150, I had some work to do. Although thanks to help from my India trip, which I guess was pretty active (because I felt like I was eating constantly), I haven’t been back up quite that high. Though my first few weeks after India, plus splurging on my trip to Chicago cemented the undoing of much of India’s good work. I basically started this plan at 147.

The plan has been pretty simple, and underway for about 3-4 full weeks, with the brief interruption from Chicago. I have a list of foods that I’m allowed to eat when I’m hungry. In general, these foods have been pulled from a narrow list of foods that disproportionately make one feel fuller than their calorie count would indicate. There are all sorts of articles and indexes on the web about this – satiety indexes and such. It was a revelation to me that calories have extremely little to do with how full one actually feels after eating. Much like money has absolutely nothing to do with the amount of work one does. In both cases, sometimes they coincide, but more often they don’t.

There was another angle to this food thing – I’ve had some recurrent acne and have attributed it after much research to a possible Vitamin A deficiency. I have since probably discredited this hypothesis, but it’s why carrots, which (like pancakes) make one hungrier than one was before eating them, are on this list.

The List:
-Bran Cereal
-Carrots
-Honeydew Melon
-Potatoes (boiled)

Plus, I get one totally free meal a day, where I can eat whatever, wherever. It goes without saying that I’m not to go hog-wild at such meals and eat a double-meal or something, but my low threshold of fullness helps automatically keep this in check.

It wasn’t until the last couple days that this exhaustive list of four foods for all eating outside of one meal/day was starting to wear on me. Thus I have added two brand-new foods!:
-Celery
-Lentils

This diet has knocked me down to 140, though there seems to be some push-back at this line. My nadir was 139, which was pretty exciting, since I could really see a dramatic difference in the distribution of that weight differential. I’ve stabilized in the 139-141 range, but seem to need some sort of prolonged or new move to get below that.

Then there’ll be a larger issue of what it takes to maintain the 130-135 range and whether it requires upkeep of these habits or a slight shift to something different.

After several weeks, I’ve established that this regimen is healthy, effective, and sustainable. It makes me appreciate the one meal out a day more and not have to worry as much about what I’m going to do to fulfill hunger when hunger arises. The foods on the list are simple to maintain, and basically all of them can be eaten raw and stored easily. No preparation time, no real thinking time, just getting eating over as fast as possible – the way it was always meant to be.

Meantime, I can watch my nephew Paul V grow up and see him be exactly like me (through 7 years of life, he’s nearly identical in his relationship with food). Maybe I can warn him about what happens at 26 before it’s too late for him and he has to resort to a plan to maintain what I grew up thinking would always be automatic.

Maybe he’ll just have to find out on his own.

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3,991 and Counting

Categories: A Day in the Life, Let's Go M's, Metablogging, Politics (n.): a strife of interests masquerading, Quick Updates, Tags: , , , ,

Like high inflation, everyone’s proclivity toward debt, and the Iraq War, StoreyTelling being inundated with a deluge of spam comments is looking like part of the reality I’m just going to have to adjust to.

The one spam comment per minute rate looks pretty consistent, so I think that’s what it’s going to be.

Meanwhile, the general barometer of how things stand based on the people on the streets of the Tenderloin says outlook not good. The theory about the end of the month causing the trouble seemed to be dented yesterday. But who knows at this point.

And if the Mariners lose one more exciting one-run game, I think they’re going to set some kind of record for fan frustration. They’re 1-8 in one-run games. 1-8! And they’re 12-8 (.600) in the rest of the games. .600 happens to be the winning percentage of the top two teams in the AL. The only good thing about this is that they can’t possibly keep up that kind of record in one-runners, so as that progresses to .500, the M’s will go on a tear. Right?

The cable may get fixed today and we’ll have some sort of explanation. It’s Comcastic!

Work’s been better; everything else has been crazier. The rate of change is looking pretty spiky as we settle into May. I’ve surrounded myself with distraction bolsters: the APDA Forum game, playing baseball on Sunday, and so on. But the world is there whether one’s distracted or not. Does anyone really think Bush is going to take record disapproval lying down?

Happy Friday.

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So, What Do 1,335 Spam Comments Look Like?

Categories: A Day in the Life, Just Add Photo, Metablogging, Tags: , ,

As we used to say in Risk, the attack continues!

Spam, glorious spam.

This picture actually does no real justice to the sheer volume of spam comments that have been incoming. Assuming this started at midnight (pretty sure it was later), the rate is about a spam comment a minute. After receiving maybe 300-500 spam comments in the six months of this blog prior, that’s slightly unnerving.

In other news, the APDA Forum was restored to full glory exactly 24 hours after crashing. Bandwidth can be bought, and fortunately this seemed like a priority to people. So if you have an APDAweb login and want to follow along at home, the action is here.

If you don’t have an APDAweb login, you should know that the future leaders of America have become suddenly very secretive about their summer activities, especially when they make reference to some of them being insurgents in Iraq. Suffice it to say that many of them hope to have political careers and that really might not be in their precise best interest.

At the rate things are going, though, you never know.

May Day?

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Bandwidth

Categories: A Day in the Life, Metablogging, Tags: ,

This blog is under attack!

As I speak (write), a few different URL’s have joined together to launch a coordinated effort to overwhelm this blog with spam comments. The comments function is disabled, so these comments are automatically coded to hit the moderation queue. While they’ll never hit the mean streets of the mainline Internet, they have flooded my Inbox with notifications and the queue is seeming pretty taxed. There were 334 this morning, then I cleared another 25 that I watched pile up in the following 15 minutes. 50 more have come in since.

Good thing my bandwidth limit for the BP is almost incalculably high. Thank you HostMonster!

Not so much luck for the APDA Forum. As discussed yesterday, it was taken down by another of my efforts, my now becoming annual summer game of Werewolf/Mafia, this time with 45 APDAites. The theme is the Iraq War. This is roughly the last thing I’ve had time for with the rest of my schedule, yet I’ve somehow managed to clear the decks for this and be very attentive. This is sort of how I operate. Flashes of manic motivation that push everything else to the side. Projects are best when they come like a tidal wave, leaving behind an equal portion of devastation and creative water. Of course, I’m still feeling the effects of tens of tidal waves before, many of which never saw FEMA come in and condemn the awkward structures left behind. Nothing ever gets condemned in my little world, except for in brief moments of wise severance that seem too far, too few, and too late.

Humans are so adaptable and I’m really self-aware. This combination has made me positively stellar at doing just exactly what is necessary to keep me afloat with the status quo. I don’t think I’m unique in this – most of us are breaking our necks to do everything we can to stay exactly in place. The world’s nature is to spin and change and twirl and tumble and the way most of us adjust to this is by getting whiplash by planting ourselves and hanging on for the ensuing torque of the changes around us. It’s devastatingly sad to watch so many people get so rigid and not just give in to the winds. We build our institutions as a society around resistance to the wind – we label things as passive or flaky or impractical. But I have my inspirations and my confirmations. There are people even braver than I, and I salute them for being windier than I.

Today I’m giving a culminative and momentous presentation on what I’ve been working on for the past month. I’ve been working with a consultant who is returning to Germany, carrying knowledge of America and a firm understanding that it’s not the best place (my interpretation of her perspective). We both deal in metaphor and illustration, getting along quite well to craft a story of what the last 40 years have brought to today. Our final analogy is a collective group of over a hundred people all frozen on thin ice, not daring to breathe (let alone move), hoping that not everything cracks through. Of course the only way to survive is to run across the ice as fast as possible before it breaks. The ice can’t handle the weight of the pressures already there – it is destined to fall through. There’s nothing anyone can do to prop up that ice. The only chance, the only solution is to run, to outrun the collapse, to forge a better solution on the other side after changing far, hard, fast.

But it’s scary. And people wonder if they have the capacity to do it. The “bandwidth,” as he who shall not be named might say. It’s his second-favorite phrase, right behind “proceed until apprehended.” That’s a fine philosophy for those who believe fundamentally that accountability will never come. That no one will ever have to take ownership of the decisions that they made. That no one is watching. But another person, one worthy of respect, said “I’m old fashioned – I believe in God’s judgment. And not in the next life, but right here on Earth. Right now.”

Today, I’m inclined to agree. People are throwing stuff at the wall and seeing what sticks. The capacity is taxed, the tubes are being jammed to a shut. Everyone’s scrambling, but when the lanes are full, everyone’s stuck. Everyone feels an undercurrent of the need to move, but it’s too scary and there’s nowhere to go.

We need to unplug, to free up the bandwidth, to clear the decks. More tidal waves. More Drain-o. More flushing of the whole system.

Night before last, the cable went down without explanation. Every time a button was pressed on any of the remotes, the cable would go up or down by one channel at a time, stopping on channel 96 if up or 963 if down. It was like a bad horror movie. It still hasn’t come back and I haven’t had the time or energy to call. Am I being passive by letting it go? Or am I listening?

I wanted to close this post with this quote from Jackie Greene, who Fish finally hooked me on in Chicago:

And I see through the windows like I see through the lies
like I see through every useless disguise that
everyone wears but everyone swears that they don’’t.
Ah but don’t mind me baby, I’m only dying slow.

There is an uncanny resonance to just this time, just this month, just this season. But we ought not be dying slow. We ought be living fast. Dying is a slow process. Even when one dies fast, that’s truly living.

Bandwidth is no excuse. There are no excuses. We will not be forgiven. What we do here counts.

Cold water is coming – either over the top or from ‘neath the cracking ice. How you get drenched makes all the difference.

52 more comments while I wrote this post.

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Getting the Finger

Categories: A Day in the Life, Just Add Photo, Tags: ,


Portrait of the blogger as a left hand.

One of these five is not like the other. One of these five just isn’t the same. And if you said “it has a wedding ring,” you’re not quite telling the whole story.

I already discussed how this happened from Chicago shortly after the incident. Believe it or not, it looked much worse at the time, a couple days ago, being predominantly swollen and even greener-purple throughout the whole finger. At this point, it’s really just sore and vaguely annoying – something to avoid bumping into things and to tread lightly on the letters s, w, and x. It’s great it’s healing so rapidly, because I don’t know what a day at work without being able to type quickly would look like.

It’s hard to argue with the idea that this was the best trip to Chicago ever, despite the depiction above. After last post, Fish & I hosted an old-style Nuevo enchilada night with plenty of his student-friend posse and introduced them all to Mafia to cap the evening. We then went to Shedd Aquarium the next day in what may have been the first time I’ve hung out with both Fish and fish in over a decade. Put it this way, though… if I’m feeling okay about going to an aquarium in April in Chicago, you know there’s a certain level of comfort I’m feeling with my destiny. You might say I’m giving fate the finger. Of course, you might’ve also said I was asking for it.

There was an earthquake in Chicago, or at least somewhere in Illinois. That night, both Fish’s girlfriend and I had dreams about earthquakes, though mine ultimately morphed into some sort of nuclear attack. Chicago thus joined New York City on the list of places where I have experienced earthquakes that conventionally never get earthquakes. As the old way of looking at these things goes, I brought them in from California. Funny that Homeland Security can’t pick those up on the scanners.

I don’t reckon I’ll be back there for a spell, though the eight-year gap just past is a pretty wide swath to repeat. At this point, it may have even passed Glasgow on the all-time list of places in the world. Maybe next time, Chicago, we don’t have to shake hands.

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Saturday in the Park

Categories: A Day in the Life, But the Past Isn't Done with Us, From the Road, Tags: , ,

Been nearly two days in Chicago with a day to go. Have seen a full game in Wrigley Field (Cubs 3, Pirates 2), seen both of the previously unseen campuses I passed up as possible collegiate choices, and managed to smash up my wedding ring finger into a purple pulp. You didn’t think this town was gonna let me off easy, did you?

This post will likely be short, in large part because typing with nine fingers is a task I’ve never had to learn. Rather than being 10% slower, it really seems about 98% slower given how long it takes for me to decide which finger to sub in for the S finger. Luckily, this finger is only responsible for three letters (and two of them are w and x), but unluckily s is pretty common. I don’t know if the finger’s broken or not, but I’m leaning towards not at this point given that it’s pretty much stopped hurting. Last night when I willingly took two painkiller pills, was talked into a third, and never refused ice, the signs were pointing to badness.

The method of the smashing was picking up a bowling ball. Just nanoseconds before lifting, I was wrapping my left hand around the ball as support and the old-school see-saw ball-returner shot a ball into the row at breakneck (or break-finger) speed. The entire stopping point of the chain-reaction impact was my hand, primarily focused on one finger with peripheral contact on the two neighbors. Sandwiched between a 14 and a 12, this did not lead to warm fuzzy feelings. Somehow, in about 20 years of bowling, this had never once happened to me. And it really bugged me because it was entirely preventable. And because it hurt.

This is hardly the focal point of the trip, though, and shouldn’t be where I put so much emphasis. The trip has been about an old friend and his new friends. Fish has been the consummate host, as always, and given me a glimpse of both Chicago and alternate pasts that I have turned away from. His group is what I remember of groups assembled at schools – smart, funny, interested, and interesting. Everything about school except for school was always great. If everyone could self-select and come together for such things in the interest of some sort of club or life commitment (or even society?), things would be really cooking. But sadly school seems to be the only thing deemed worthy of bringing like-mindeds together from such distant places in a socially comfortable setting. And thus my path is barred, by my own volition.

Nevertheless, it’s good to see a friend doing well, to immerse in his world, and to talk through all the things it seems go unsaid these days. Examining one’s own life is often so difficult without the full-length mirror that is someone who has known you across a multitude of years and situations.

Debate and discussion. The caterpillar story. A coat forgotten and regained. Misty walks on paths not taken. Cheez-its and carrots, coffee and Cheerios. Once more unto the grocery store. Everything’s different and nothing’s changed. Everything’s perfect and Fish is god. Ow.

It is still too early to be too late.

by

Where Were You in Chicago?

Categories: A Day in the Life, But the Past Isn't Done with Us, Pre-Trip Posts, Tags: , ,

Oh, Chicago.

It’s been eight full years since my last visit to the Windy City (outside of one of the worst airport stopovers in modern history). The city of my almost absolutely ideal weather (could stand to be a little drier in the summer, but otherwise perfect) and almost absolutely horrible everything else. Past visits to Chicago have been almost universally bad, marked by high turmoil and tension, argument, and almost unending apprehension. Something about the length of time spent seems to correspond to the extent of the badness, or at least the fallout. The one decent visit was in late ’97, where my Dad and I flew to a debate tournament in Florida via Chicago, with a few hour layover. We didn’t really have time to check out either of the city’s colleges I’d applied to and they put massive amounts of milk in my coffee without asking and it was bitterly cold and we were both a little grumpy toward the end. But nobody got hurt.

And that was by far the best visit. Maybe it’s no wonder that I didn’t give much consideration to either of those colleges when I’d gotten in.

But still to come was the last visit, eight years ago and change, which still stands out as one of the worst trips of all-time. It didn’t help that I’d been anticipating the trip with a wildly inexplicable sense of foreboding that proved as prophetic (though not as seriously so) as I’d feared. I was going into a Model UN conference that I’d been guilted into attending, nearing complete exhaustion with the politics and format of collegiate Model UN. This trip, which proved to be my last lifetime MUN conference, cemented my feelings while just seeming to waste my time. From the 20th day of Introspection ever: “Never been so bored in a MUN committee in my life. That’s 6 years of effort there.”

The trip was not without upside. Chicago is not only a place of bad feeling for me, but of incredibly intense feeling. The severity of emotional spurring gives it a vague potential that I would be more inclined to pursue if the downside tendencies of my state in the city didn’t just scare me. I spent the first night of the trip wandering around the city by myself, lost in reverie that culminated in me literally yelling at myself as March was about to cross over into April…

Sometimes I think I should walk around with a tape recorder. Walking back from that convenience store, I swear I figured everything out. Well, not everything, but more than I’ve had a handle on for a long time. Talking out loud works so much better, especially in cold night air. If I could maintain that focus for days on end, life would almost feel easy. Instead, I end up blinding myself to clarity & getting crowded by my frustrations. I don’t wear my heart on my sleeve, I wear it on my tongue. & I don’t consider that a problem, if only I could express myself as well to others as I can to myself. Seems like they’d be easier to convince anyway.

After the conference concluded, there were then plane delays trying to get out of the city and it felt like that place just had me in its clutches. Note to self: Plane delays where one has incredibly impatience and anxiety about getting out in time are usually a warning sign. Proceed with caution. Or, as I told myself at the time (day 21 of Introspection): “I’ve got to learn to start trusting my instincts. I might hate my intuition, but it’s always right.”

In my memory, I think I’d folded the two days that followed my return into nothing, or transplanted them as being prior to the trip. But that’s only how it seemed in retrospect, because the trip was so awful and everything crashed to pieces 48 hours after my return. But those were a pivotal 48 hours. A very good 48 hours. Until Ben Brandzel caught me reveling in the downstairs portion of the Usdan cafeteria and uttered the worst joke I’ve ever heard in my life:

“So, has she told you about her book yet?”

Though I felt like he’d just winded me with a sucker punch, I refused to be fazed at the time. In less than 36 hours, though, it was all over. With less warning but as much seeming foreknowledge, I had been felled by this comment just as Lisha’s “Doomsday” Prophecy of ’93 had unwittingly unraveled that situation. Of course the comment had nothing to do with anything, but it sure made it feel like the events had more to do with fate than anything I could control.

I went into freefall. A good bit of this is discussed in my recent post about April. There’s no need to hash out more details and I really should wrap this up anyway. In the swirl of retrospect, the trip and everything that followed were inextricably bound with each other and a sense of powerful, living destiny.

Was there destiny? I don’t really believe in destiny, but it’s hard to argue with what transpired. The wake of the events of March and April 2000 convinced me to start “The Streak” and I never missed an APDA debate weekend thereafter. I decided that I might as well continue with my resolution at the advent of the millennium that I would devote myself to the one thing that was going well in college. The relationship that ended in such a crushing fashion turned out to feel more and more like a dodged bullet than a sincere loss. All of these things led directly to fuel everything that happened in the next two years: staying at Brandeis, debate success, and Emily.

This time around, I don’t feel any sense of foreboding at all. It’s almost uncanny how calm I feel despite the history, despite it being April. Another rejection of destiny, perhaps, or just an openness to change. It’s certain that even the slightest inkling of bad feeling would get blown up in my perception given the context, so it’s really all good. I can’t wait to see Fish, meet his new girlfriend and other friends, see Wrigley, give this city a fourth or fifth or sixth chance.

Forty years after “something very extraordinary died there, which was America,” I’ll be heading back toward the city named for wild leeks once again. My baseball streak is at 3 games, after a beautiful complete game by Felix Hernandez last night. I have a busy day at work, made somewhat more challenging by a mild migraine. I’m getting on a vessel of one of the plane companies that has still managed to stay solvent. Life is mixed, but life is good.

We’ve come too far to leave it all behind.

by

This Week in Baseball

Categories: A Day in the Life, Let's Go M's, Quick Updates, Tags: , ,

So, barring unforeseeable alterations or difficulties, here is a big chunk of my schedule for this calendar week:

Sunday, 4/13: Cardinals @ Giants, AT&T Park
Monday, 4/14: Diamondbacks @ Giants, AT&T Park
Wednesday, 4/16: Mariners @ A’s, McAfee Coliseum
Friday, 4/18: Pirates @ Cubs, Wrigley Field

7 teams, 4 games, 3 cities. That’s a good week. Makes it a little easier to deal with working and all that in the meantime.

But tack on things like an unexpected free trip to a luxury suite yesterday (apparent face value: ~$400/seat), Randy Johnson’s first start of the ’08 campaign today, my beloved Mariners on Wednesday, and my first trip to Wrigley on Friday? It’s downright amazing.

I’m also hoping that the streak (currently a 1-game streak) of teams I’m rooting for this week winning can keep up. Even though my loyalties are somewhat torn tonight (my favorite pitcher vs. my favorite NL team) and are not strong on Friday (though they lean pretty discernibly toward the Pirates, which I just can’t say that the Cubs bleachers fans will be excited about), I’m looking to go 4-0. Or at least 2-2, with the second win being the M’s. Because really, that’s all that matters in the end.

April may be terrible – and it is – but it at least bestows the blessing of baseball. I’m not sure how I’d survive this month without it.

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Hitler’s Bake Sale

Categories: A Day in the Life, But the Past Isn't Done with Us, Tags: ,

Had some profoundly vivid dreams last night, after a good long while of vagueness and reprieve from the dreamworld. It’s no surprise, given that I slept for a significant amount of time for the first time in recent memory. Probably the first night over 6.5 hours in weeks. And that, not surprisingly, was due to a major migraine, also the first in quite a while. And that, in turn, was due to insufficient coffee intake in the morning because I was running late.

The world, in short, makes sense.

But dreams themselves do not often make sense, as was the case last night. Or at least they cover the bizarre and fanciful, even when they might be able to be linked or traced to larger themes of relevance. In the first dream, earlier in the night, I was somehow trying to juggle seven or eight part-time jobs. Most of them were jobs I wouldn’t consider in real life – sales jobs and store reception – as well as a couple jobs that resembled actual work I’ve done, such as library positions. And it was all somehow mixed with me leaving Glide or cutting down hours and keeping my options open. Somehow in the dream, showing up to any one of these jobs once a week would clinch the employer’s interest in me in carrying over for the next week or month or so. But it was very difficult to track the schedule of all of these disparate jobs, which ended up boiling down into feeling like any number of school schedule stress dreams. These are a common theme in my dream repertoire, wherein I don’t know when and where my classes are, and I’m usually on the verge of being automatically failed if I miss any more classes. These can be high school or college and fill a truly disproportionate amount of my dreamlife. And compared to a lot of my nightmares, especially more historically, they’re not so bad at all.

The second dream felt better moment-to-moment at the time, but was holistically much more disturbing in retrospect. In this one, I was apparently a baker of all manner of pastries and breads. And the world was about to go to war. It was definitely 2008, and all of my bakery’s machinery reflected this fact. But most of the combatants were historical figures, mostly circa World War II. Each of the combatants came to visit my bakery and arrange indefinably large shipments of my goods to their soldiers who were about to be fighting in this war. The impracticality of shipping huge quantities of perishable food across the world to troops in conflict seemed not to faze anyone, let alone really occur to them (though it was in the back of my mind). Two themes needled me in the back of my mind profoundly – one that I was selling to soldiers, who would clearly be committing violence that I disagree with. The other was that I was unabashedly (though not openly to any given buyer) selling to both sides of the war, to soon-to-be-declared enemies. It was clear that Japan and Germany were going to be opposing each other in the war, and shortly after the anonymous Japanese diplomat left, in walked Hitler.

Hitler was not only the first actual personage I could recognize and name in the dream, but he entered the full-color world and mainframe of the dream in a sepia-tone. He was fully illustrated and visible, but he was completely sepia-tone, as though stepping from a faded newsreel and into my 2008 full-color life. He was officious but not unfriendly and ordered a million cinnamon rolls and a million items that I called muffins. He insisted that they weren’t muffins, however, and began to argue. I suggested that they might be a little more akin to biscuits, if he preferred that word. He said clearly that they were “bread” as though this word had just occurred to him. I conceded that they were a type of bread, but this was unsatisfactory to him. At this point, he began to extrapolate on how long the war would last and that if I played my cards right, there would be orders of far more than just a million cinnamon rolls and a million pieces of bread, but that could all be jeopardized by me insisting on calling bread a biscuit or a muffin. Okay, Mr. Hitler.

At this point, it was clearly disturbing me greatly that I was doing business with Hitler, but at the same time, I didn’t really see a great distinction between this and selling to other armies and other combatants. Indeed, the fact that I was selling perishable items to them and to both sides of the conflict gave me a small secret satisfaction that I was somehow thwarting their efforts and diverting money away from weaponry and into my ability to do some good. Beating swords into rotten bread, and in turn perhaps into plowshares.

The dream ended shortly thereafter – I signed to the deal after convincing Hitler to buy two million cinnamon rolls to go with the original order of “bread”. He went on his way and I distinctly remember a little bell ringing over the top of the glass door as he exited the building. The smell of fresh baked bread filled my nostrils as I sighed heavily and wondered what I was doing with my life.

Is there a message for me in all this? Clearly the compromises and the deferring of my time expenditure I’m making now in no way compare to signing pastry deals with Hitler. But was my subconscious trying to use some extreme illustration to wake me up? I clearly am starting to feel a good deal of guilt about my use of time, somewhere. Especially given that so many of my dreams tend to revolve on me doing unthinkable things in my dreams and wrestling with myself about why I don’t feel enough remorse to stop. The classic among these is, of course, eating meat – I’ve had thousands of dreams in the last 11 years where I eat meat and feel awful, and lately mostly disappointed, with myself. Generally there’s something in these dreams about realizing that I haven’t actually been a vegetarian for the last 11 years, yet haven’t realized it till just now. Waking up to reality is always reassuring in these situations, though it often takes some time to recall that the dream-bacon wasn’t real.

Waking up this morning was less reassuring. Again, I stress that I have no misgivings about my actual job or work or use of time on an absolute scale. It’s only on a relative scale, that in comparison to writing full-time, that I have questions or doubts. Especially since that was going to be the plan for a while, before the latest promotion swooped in and convinced me to stay.

Dreams derive most often, they say, from one’s own hopes and fears. (In my case, pretty much universally fears.) I can’t rule out that there are sometimes larger messages or warnings in dreams, but even they may be from one’s own internal sense of impending doom or difficulty. And clearly this issue has been bothering me lately. The only thing that really shakes me, deep down, is what was happening exactly three years ago around this time. The same misgivings, the same warnings were creeping in all around. And those proved dangerously unheeded. I pledged to not make the same mistake again. And while personal safety was clearly more abundant an issue at Seneca, making the stakes higher, I have a quality backup plan here and now, which I didn’t then. Call it a draw, I guess, which doesn’t make me feel much better.

Muffin?

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April 8ths this Decade

Categories: A Day in the Life, But the Past Isn't Done with Us, Tags: ,

For some reason, April 8th has been a date that has stuck out in my mind like a sore thumb. I’ve never quite had a great handle on why this is the case. There are certain inherent numeric properties to the day that make it naturally interesting, but it’s way more than that. I’ve worked on a lot of theories in the last decade about specific days and time being charged in some ways, at least as much as places are. And after all, time is a place in the universe because of planetary orbits. Some of this should be review, and I don’t have a ton of time to write this post this morning.

I’m trying to recall if there was some super-significant April 8th in my childhood. I sort of feel there must’ve been. Although I paid less attention to this sort of stuff then and managed to not even put together the incredible slumpiness of April/May until pretty late in the game. Life is nothing if not persistent.

8 April 2000: In the wake of the Try Before You Buy disaster, I head to New York City for one of my two losing records (both 2-3) in my APDA career, at CCNY Pro-Ams. I was an emotional wreck, as captured by this Introspection line: “Most of the tournament on Friday, it seemed people couldn’t determine if my eyes were watering from my cold or if I’d been crying. I was among those people.” To put the cap on the day, miscommunication led to me spending hours in the Broome Street lobby, listening to music that seemed to be narrating to me why I would always be alone.

8 April 2001: Another day of waiting, this time in a bus-stop for the next girlfriend at the time. The relationship’s final blow would prove to be my very blog, perhaps for posts like this (which was from April 9th, but reflecting on how the 8th had felt): “Ah, doubt. Bane of existence. It creeps in, like April malaise, tugging at possibilities in an eerie & unsettling fashion. I wish I could bannish my own musings & sit patiently with contentedness but it never seems to quite satisfy. Why am I reminded of a long-ago argument with Schneider when he jestingly told Fish & I that we keep buying new shoes – the WE lacked the loyalty to stick with something. & I just put in new laces to an old pair, too – literally.” The whole weekend meandered in self-doubt and I remembered pointing back to certain conclusions drawn that weekend that would ultimately lead to the temporary (and then permanent) end my last unsuccessful relationship.

8 April 2002: A pretty bright April 8th, wherein I compiled what then set a record for traffic at the Blue Pyramid, the May Madness of APDA project about a hypothetical design for the Nationals tournament. APDA became captivated by the idea heading into a momentous Nationals weekend where many things went tumultuously poorly, but I proposed to Emily.

8 April 2003: “The 8th of April always seems to be a BIG day. More on this later.” Ironically one of the least significant April 8ths, but the Iraq War was brand new and dominating my view of reality. Everything seemed momentous and charged at a time that looked like the breaking point for a short war. So it goes. Shortly thereafter, I posted another May Madness and returned to Boston for the first time since graduating to judge at ‘Deis Nats.

8 April 2004: In the midst of working at Seneca and contemplating my annual April malaise, I become focused on the problems with antidepressants and how they tend to make people’s lives worse. Shortly thereafter, I become mired in some aspects of my own past: “In transferring some files from old computer to new, I discovered my archive of saved AOL-IM conversations of yore. Just browsing them was painful. In reviewing a couple of conversations, it occurred to me how many times a pleasant conversation turned to something hostile just because of how poorly emotions are conveyed via AOL-IM. I’ve had bouts with thinking about returning to the world of away messages & little dings, but these archives set me back on course every time.”

8 April 2005: The only line from this day is a mix of awareness of this post’s theme and more chilling prophecy, showing just how thorough my warning was for the events that would unfold in May: “I remember when the 8th of April just stuck out in my mind as a pivotal day of sorts. I feel things swirling as being pivotal, but today just seemed mired in the same old mud. At least I’m talking it out, looking for conclusions, trying to find a viable escape…” The moral of the story, at least as much as anything, is to quit bad jobs before they quit you.

8 April 2006: A surprise return to judge at Nationals (shortly after a 3rd May Madness posting) results in an intense colliding of worlds. Late in the day, a sixth round bubble proves to be the best round I’ve ever seen in my life… “Best round I’ve ever judged. I wish I had been able to tape that sixth round, so I could hand a copy of that tape to anyone who thinks the circuit has declined. The circuit is always great, & always has great rounds & speakers at the top level. & they even kept to time! A truly euphoric round.” The next day would yield some disappointing break rounds, but be followed by one of the all-time greatest ‘Deis team dinners.

8 April 2007: Mesco & Afsheen’s wedding reception crosses over midnight into this day and proves to be a fantastic time. Their reception is really just pizza, foosball, and hanging out in a hotel lounge, which is both emblematic of them and something that everyone would’ve chosen over most any other kind of reception. Our whirlwind trip to Atlanta wraps up and dumps us back on the doorstep of reality, shortly before the emotionally observed passing of Kurt Vonnegut.

Looking at them threaded together like that, it seems that the significance of April 8th is as much in my head as it is in reality. There are good ones and bad ones, significant ones and mild regular days. It’s good to check one’s samples like this sometimes. What I can tell you is that the feeling of apprehensive significance is always there, always the same. I can’t tell you why, especially looking through the above, but I search my feelings and I know it to be true.

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I Got Your April Right Here

Categories: A Day in the Life, But the Past Isn't Done with Us, Keepin' it Cryptic, Let's Go M's, Quick Updates, Tags: , , , ,

A first day – no joke. A joke in the bathroom. A dental visit. A decision: no anesthesia. A walk home. A phone call, somewhere between banter and the most important decisions of our lives. A poker game, where a lesson was actually learned. A Mariners game, where all season was lived in a day, or in two tumultuous sine curve innings. A heart-stopping phone call for all the wrong reasons. A joke that just doesn’t work because of history, of context, of life itself.

I could write all the details, flesh it out, spell it out in flesh (a pounding heart in the wake of feeling the Earth slip out from under one for no good reason) and blood (spilling onto the towel from prodded gums). But there’s no need, or no cause – today felt like a day that hearkened for blippy Introspection-style reflection. And some day I’ll read and remember and another dawn of another April will come across from the distance of years or months or weeks or days. And I’ll be just there. Inside it all again. April the first. April is the cruelest month. April come she will.

And has.

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Baseball’s Back

Categories: A Day in the Life, Just Add Photo, Let's Go M's, Tags: , ,

It’s been a baseball weekend. Which helps explain the lack of updates of late. I had today off, which was not officially an Opening Day holiday, but it should have been. Might as well have been. Cesar Chavez is important too, but this is baseball.

I managed to attend not one, but two games that didn’t count this weekend. Well, if you count Thursday as part of the weekend. Both games were at AT&T Park (the most recent appellation for the SF Giants’ ballpark), both were 7-2 road team victories, and only one was the most glorious game I may have ever attended.

You see the ball in the picture up top of this post? Coming screaming off Raul Ibanez’ bat? It ended up in my hands. And then on my knee, and then on the floor in front of me, and then in my hands again. A foul ball. Stamped Official Major League Baseball. From an exhibition game, yes, but off the bat of a Seattle Mariner. And not just a Spring Training guy trying to make the team, but off our three-hole hitter in the starting lineup. My first ever foul ball.

The convergence of events that led to this Thursday catch (“catch” – it wasn’t exactly clean, but I also didn’t have a glove) were pretty remarkable. Em & I were at the game with Gris, Gris’ Dad, Gris’ Dad’s wife, Gris’ half-brother, and some friends of Gris’ Dad. We all sort of showed up in that order, with Emily being last. But it turned out that through some sort of will-call mis-timing, the friends had bought tickets down at the lower level of the park (we were in our standard nosebleed seats). So we decided to sneak down, since approximately 471 people and at least twice that number of seagulls were in attendance. We went down in about the fifth inning.

Off-handedly upon arrival, I remarked “Hey, we could get a ball here.” It seemed pretty optimistic at best, given that we were three rows under and overhanging deck, and we were lined up with shallow left field on the third base side. Not exactly behind the dugout. After discussing these odds with Gris, I admitted that it would have to be some sort of line drive.

Indeed.

Within two innings, Raul Ibanez stepped to the plate in the midst of a major Mariner rally. After collecting two strikes, he stayed alive with a swing that sent a liner sailing vaguely towards us. It kept hooking in our general direction (we stood up immediately, as fans hoping for foul balls tend to if anything’s looking to land within a half-mile of one’s seat), but it looked sure to catch the overhang. I was pretty resigned to it bouncing off the overhang above me when I realized that the pain in my hand was from a collision with the ball. I had not moved my feet at all. I had been perfectly aligned with the trajectory of the ball, in the precise seat we’d snuck down to.

It was all over in seconds. There was basically no time between being sure that it would hit the overhang and coming up with the ball off the ground in front of me after it had ricocheted from my hand to my knee to the floor. And it was so automatic that I was surprised when people were high-fiving me and congratulating me and asking to see the ball. I almost said “what ball?” while holding it aloft. I was in such autopilot that it took me maybe ten minutes to really come down to Earth and realize I’d finally caught a foul ball after so many years of yearning for just that at baseball games.

The subsequent weekend has gone down in a similar burst of speedy autopilot. It’s been mostly good, especially on the front of making major progress on a vital project that I’m doing for another website (details to follow, hopefully in a matter of weeks or perhaps even days). Played some of the best tennis we’ve played yet. And yes, there was baseball. Joined Gris to watch a depressing 7-2 drubbing of the Giants by the A’s. Then was at home for Opening Day for the Mariners, playing for keeps finally, taking down the Rangers 5-2.

It’s hard to say just how much time and energy baseball are going to take up of the next few months. While still working a day job, I’ve promised myself that I’m going to lay off myself a little. Not be quite as harsh about time for recreation and demanding more writing from myself. The way I feel I’ve lived the last five years of my life has been a lot like constantly yelling at oneself for not being able to perfectly juggle while trying to waltz on a conveyor belt. Really, honestly, waltzing on a conveyor belt should take most of one’s focal time and energy if one’s to do it at all well. And juggling while doing so, while maintaining perfect balance and waltz form, is just about impossible. And even if one can manage to get in a few tosses, it really pales in comparison to how well one can juggle when one is neither on a conveyor belt nor attempting to waltz. Seriously. You just wouldn’t believe how poor that juggling is compared to any authentic objectively good juggling.

I don’t know if that makes sense to you or not, but realizing that this is a good metaphor for my life, I’m going to try (note: TRY) to take it easy on myself about the imperfect juggling. And maybe even take a dance or two off from attempting juggling along the way. Because really stellar juggling is to come. When I’m on solid, danceless ground.

Yes, that had to do with baseball – baseball is just baseball, somewhat on the side from juggling, conveyor belts, and waltzes. But it takes time, just like those things. And the fact that I still get tempted by things like Facebook offers to give one the opportunity to blog full-time about one’s favorite team (with probably no compensation and maybe not even readership) indicates where baseball ends up falling. I love baseball. It gets my heart palpitating. And a year where the Mariners are good and MLB.tv exists? It’s just scary how much fun this could be.

I can leave the baseball-blogging to people who know what they’re doing on that front. Or at least have more time for it and more of a following already. Why do something if one isn’t going to be either the best or unique? That’s just a good standard question to ask about any expenditure of time.

Except rooting for baseball teams. Because I’m not the best and I’m certainly not unique. But not doing that would be like not breathing.

Which is very different than not waltzing on a conveyor belt.

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Chaos (Theory?)

Categories: A Day in the Life, Awareness is Never Enough - It Must Always Be Wonder, But the Past Isn't Done with Us, Tags: , , ,

Authorities revealed Tuesday that a man carrying a loaded shotgun was arrested in January near the U.S. Capitol, and explosives left in his truck nearby went undetected for three weeks.
CNN/AP, 26 March 2008

If we all comprehended all that goes into the decisions that impact our lives, we might never be able to sit still again. Let alone sleep. Two people are anticipating such a decision that I’m supposed to be making… it’s entirely out of their hands. It’s one of those many seeming coinflip decisions we make in life. Eventually I’ll find a way to make it a rationally reasoned decision, but I wouldn’t count on others to do the same in my shoes. This one’s for a job as I end a less than 2-month stint of not being a supervisor anymore. How many college admissions decisions, or college matriculation decisions, or moves, or debate judgments, or responses to date requests, came down to the same kind of coinflip? And who here would say they haven’t been deeply affected by one of those kinds of decisions?

I try to remember everything.
Try to remember so you don’t disappear.
-Counting Crows, “Sundays”

Maybe life’s not so hard to predict. We all have free will, but we all tend to make these ridiculously logical decisions. Maybe that’s the only reason that the coinflips feel so dangerous or scary. It’s where our free will really has to ride a gut feeling, or take a chance, or do something out of the comfort zone. Maybe where it lets itself be influenced by some larger benevolent wave. My Dad might call it “mind at large”. Others would go with destiny or fate. Everyone above would agree God’s gotta have something to do with it. Just about. But who has the faith that their contributed portion of the cacophony of wills is always allocated to benevolence? And wouldn’t resting on that faith somehow violate the bargain and undo the magic? Magic. Maybe that’s another word for it.

This is a list of what I should’ve been, but I’m not.
-Counting Crows, “Cowboys”

I used to make tapes, back in late high school and throughout college. I clung to a dying technological medium in large part because I liked the rhythms of 60- and 90-minute intervals, and especially loved having two opposing sides of something. No one was really ever able to record their own vinyl records, and CD’s don’t have sides. The tape was the perfect homemade medium. I made two tapes that come to mind this week… “Poetry in Stagnation” and “Chaos Theory”. The last of these had sides called “Butterfly Wings” and “Consequences” and was probably my most artistically made mix. The latest Counting Crows album, “Saturday Nights & Sunday Mornings”, is clearly written with sides in mind. It’s a bit of a concept album with each half of that phrase parsed into its own side. The CD cover is a vinyl album, just in case we missed the point. Like all new albums (these days at least), it sounds godawful the first time one listens to it. The second time through, I’m not sure I’ve heard anything more relevant in my life. Nothing will ever measure up to “This Desert Life”, the album that started my traditions with Counting Crows releases, perhaps the only album that sounded perfect the first time through too. I’ve always felt a special kinship with Adam Duritz (really, what CC fan doesn’t?), but you can hear in this one that maybe it’s gone too far. Maybe he pushed his own opportunities too long and wonders how much of this ends up being his own doing. There comes a time when it’s time to stop blaming the cacophony of wills and start examining one’s own coinflips.

It’s okay, I’m angry,
but you’ll never understand…
And I can’t see why you want to talk to me
when your vision of America is crystalline and clean.
-Counting Crows, “When I Dream of Michelangelo”

Despite all the coinflips, the cacophony, the difficult decisions, there often come times when one can attune oneself to the universe (God, mind at large, fate, destiny, magic) sufficiently where such things no longer seem scary. One still has to play by the rules, to agonize and try. To make the best decision possible for the best reasons possible. As Brandzy would say, to do the right thing for the right reasons. But this attunement, this awareness, this getting in sync seems to take the edge off the decisions. It takes the really vicious teeth out, leaving them more smile and less bared fangs. Some mornings, maybe even a morning like this, it’s not enough for reassurance. Is that the Cheshire cat I’m seeing? What does finding your place look like?

Would you eat a Honduran melon without fear of salmonella contamination?
-CNN’s QuickVote poll for 26 March 2008

Walking out the door to go to Chipotle, checking the mail on the way, and getting a certificate for free tacos therein. The unending awareness that terrorism would be unstoppable and is thus, by its absence, demonstrated to be nonexistent. A friend’s ability to achieve what one has always wanted, while one is doing what said friend is most interested in for his own achievement. Full moons and eclipses. Butterflies flapping their wings. Earthquakes. Timing timing timing.

Life makes its own excitement.

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Good Friday

Categories: A Day in the Life, Awareness is Never Enough - It Must Always Be Wonder, Tags: ,

I am not a Christian.

A fervent believer in God and the extant importance of higher order and morality, I have not been a Christian (or a devotee of any organized religion) since late 1992 or early 1993, when I had a religious crisis in the midst of a Catholic mass while attending Catholic school on the north coast of Oregon. I believe I’ve discussed this on this webpage (this or Introspection) before, but the catalytic event was the internalization of the cross being a symbol of execution, the corresponding revelation that had Jesus been shot, the silhouette of a firearm would hang in the front of and atop the rooftop of every church in Christendom. Suddenly my many misgivings with Christian theology seemed entirely manifest in this grave miscalculation in emphasis and focus. The rest was history, and I rapidly became unable to deal with churches or Christianity for a good long while.

But I’ve always loved Good Friday, one of the few remaining redeeming* observances of the Christian calendar. I’ve often thought of constructing a calendar of my own patchwork faith, and Good Friday and Yom Kippur would be highlighted holidays… perhaps the only two to survive from widely regarded modern religions.

You can see in those two particular days a pretty distinctive theme… there is something to be said for religion’s ability to evoke passionate* sadness and soul-searching in the lives of its individuals. Organized religions, by the very virtue of their attempts to be popularly appealing, tend to shy away from this kind of reverent introspection and focus on suffering at all times. But single moments, a single day carved out of the bulwark, are reserved for the solemn observance of life’s sorrows and a corresponding rededication to doing what one can to limit them.

Much of Christian theology tries to backtrack from this seemingly original intent of Good Friday… even the name “Good” Friday indicates a problematic attempt to wash over the sadness of Jesus’ death with the “long view” and heavy foreshadowing of the Easter to come. Maybe it’s a little like the stock market and its infinite faith in endless rebounding resurrection of value and confidence. Not to make light of Jesus’ plight, but then again, I have qualms with the resurrection story and certainly don’t believe that Jesus was more than an extremely compassionate leader who offered hope before being killed tragically. Which is no small accomplishment – few individuals live such lives and they are frankly the most valuable and important people in our planet’s history. But they are not uniquely divinely chosen… they are instead exemplars of what any of us could accomplish with the right dedication: what we should all be attempting. My strong belief is that Jesus, like Gandhi (the other prime person in this hallowed company), personally rejected any attempts to deify him. Tragically, the world may never know.

The tragedy is removed from the “good” interpretation of this annual Friday. The reinterpretation imposed by those who were in the business of making a religion was that everything was foreordained and that it was a deliberate, calculated sacrifice. There tends to be little examination of what this would actually imply holistically and theologically in Christianity, and the focus is usually shifted instead to an examination of Jesus’ incredible fortitude in willingly initiating such a sacrifice. Granted, this focal point is extremely compelling and one of my favorite aspects of Good Friday. But it overlooks the larger implication about what sort of God would be doing this.

It’s really hard to imagine what sort of point God would be trying to tease out of a foreordained intentional sacrifice like this. Obviously martyrdom is a pretty good way of inspiring people and gathering followers to a person and their beliefs. But much of the strength of martyrdom is that it cuts short a life intended to be lived in full. Most martyrs (Gandhi being a notable exception) are young and have their brightest accomplishments ahead of them. The tragedy and outrage of their being taken is that their incredible leadership and good work is stolen. And thus those who remain to mourn are charged with taking up the work that was done. Even older martyrs, like Gandhi, usually have some intrinsic value to offer whatever process they were leading in the first place. It is hard to imagine, for example, that he could not have had a hand in smoothing tensions which ensued between India in Pakistan subsequent to his passing.

So Jesus as a deliberate martyr achieves much of this (and indeed, the legacy is Christianity, which is a pretty extensive story of people attempting to take up Jesus’ work, with extremely mixed results and intents), but in a very calculating and even devious way. If we are presented with this as being the plan from the beginning, then God comes across, at best, as a conniving strategist. Willing (indeed designing) to sacrifice his own lone offspring to a tortuous end that cuts short his potential for good work in order to create some sort of visceral parable for people to agonize over. Imagine, if you will, a report coming out that agents behind the Civil Rights movement actually planned Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination with MLK’s personal knowledge and consent. Or that Gandhi, or maybe John Lennon, were covertly set up by their own supporters so their message might resonate more loudly with the people. Would this strengthen or hinder your reverence for such individuals? For their cause?

I don’t believe that Jesus was uniquely chosen by God, but I do believe he was a person who chose to develop his relationship with God at a quite advanced level. He notably spoke as being the “son of man”… I’m not familiar enough with the interpretations and translations and history and have little interest in devoting my energy to Biblical scholarship, but everything I’ve deduced seems to make it clear to me that his message was that we are all the children of both God and humans, that we all are capable of this relationship, that we all can strive for the highest moral achievement. And his preaching and teaching seems to embody much of what such achievement would look like.

And so I mourn this man’s death… not because some coldly mathematical deity drew up this chess move, but because his death was untimely and tragic (and went on to create so many misunderstandings).

The story of the day of death itself is tortured, troubling, and likely clouded over the years by political motives which corrupted original accounts. Some say he answered no questions, refusing to acknowledge the authority of those attempting to judge him. Others say that he insisted upon being the son of God (though again, my interpretation of this holds that he would say this of anyone). The depiction of the Jewish masses in their treatment of Jesus is almost certainly a reflection of Christian founders’ aims in competing with Judaism on the religious playing field, though there is something to be said for concepts of desertion and betrayal from one’s own people. After all, Gandhi was shot by a Hindu, a man sharing his faith. The complicity or outright force of the Roman Empire is also minimized in most accounts from what we can imagine Empire really doing to a dangerous threat to their authority and control. (And again, motives come into play when considering the eventual Roman conversion to Christianity.)

Still, there are compelling images of the account that offer those little introspective tidbits of somber reflection. The many insults and mockeries, from his own people and/or government. The irrationality of a mob, the inefficacy of retributive justice. Forgive them, for they know not what they do. The beseeching of God in times of crisis, recognizing that God is not an interventionist at any time. A support, a powerful baseline reserve of spiritual energy, but never an interventionist. Perhaps the most powerful (and accurate) statement of a compelling image of God and God’s role in human existence that Christianity ever achieves is embodied in the fact that God does not directly intervene to save Jesus. Sadly, the only way that doctrine can interpret this is the grandmaster strategist angle. But the truth embodied there is really about the fundamental predicate of free will and the resulting conclusion that God never intervenes directly in human affairs, no matter how dire.

That’s a harder lesson to swallow. Maybe you’d rather believe in a God that connives and manipulates but is at least intervening somehow. You’d be in good (“Good”?) – or at least larger – company. But in my opinion, you’d be making a mistake. Better to recognize the incredible respect God bestows in all of us in granting us the power to do literally anything, no matter how good or bad, harmful or helpful, tragic or calculated.

A good Friday to you.

*-indicates pun intended

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What’s in a Year?

Categories: A Day in the Life, Awareness is Never Enough - It Must Always Be Wonder, Tags: , ,

Wait near the end of September.
Wait for some stars to show.
Try so hard not to remember
what all empty playgrounds know:
that sympathy is cruel.
Reluctant jester or
simpering fool.
But six feet off the highway,
our bare legs stung with wheat,
we’ll dig a hole and bury
all we could not defeat,
and say that we’ll stay for one more year.

Bend to tie a shoelace,
or bend against your fear,
and say that you’ll stay for one more year.
-The Weakerthans, “Fallow”

~

It’s getting cold in California
I guess I’ll be leaving soon
Daylight fading
Come and waste another year
All the the anger and the eloquence
are bleeding into fear
Moonlight creeping
around the corners of our lawn
When we see the early signs
that daylight’s fading
We leave just before it’s gone

She said “everybody loves you,”
she says, “everybody cares”
But all the things
I keep inside myself
they vanish in the air
-Counting Crows, “Daylight Fading”

My friend Stina tells me that 28 is way different than 27. That you can never go back again. That no one younger nor older than 27 could really understand a 27-year-old. She was only joking a little.

A co-worker of mine says that 28- and 29-year-olds go through a lot of significant changes. That one sees a lot of life changes of significance and note cropping up right around that age. He referenced some astrology, some experience, some theory. He wasn’t joking at all.

This stuff – what is going on now (whatever it is) – is no joke.

I’m studying poverty at my workplace. More and more, the question of poverty seems to be coming down to a much larger issue of freedom. You could call it control… you could call it “empowerment” (whatever that means)… you could call it confidence. What it really means is freedom. The ability to not be trapped, to not have tunnel vision. To not, as a rider on the subway some two weeks ago was, be “dreaming of zero” financially. To not spend twenty minutes telling a friend how great it would be to just get back to zero and have nothing hanging over your head.

To have nothing hanging over your head. Nothing.

For some of you (most? all?) this probably seems ridiculous. That’s not a definition of escaping poverty so much as escaping life, right? Life is an endless chain of things hanging over your head… we’re all living in a timeless flow of weights and measures. One obligation is just a way of getting to the next and so forth. Or maybe you only see it this way when you stop to think about it… the rest of the time, it’s just living. Meal to meal, chore to chore, time in the seat to time in the seat. You gotta eat, you gotta excrete, and you gotta find a way to pay for that and everything in between.

For the poor and homeless in San Francisco, there’s really no other way to look at it. There aren’t alternatives when one doesn’t have the means. And that’s really the issue – getting people like that back to freedom. Some level or capacity of being able to get rid of the tunneling obligations that crowd our life into long narrow stretches of darkness.

The rest of us, who aren’t poor and homeless, frankly have no excuse. These chains and walls are of our own creation. This tunnel was built up, layer by layer, by our own spiteful hands. The only ones that can tear it down again.

I am reminded of a day senior year in high school, perhaps exactly ten years ago today (who knows?), when I ran screaming through the halls that everyone has the key and they just don’t know how to use it. It’s there, waiting, and we just never grab hold and stick it in the door. But we all have it. Breathless and wild-eyed, I related this revelation to a series of friends. I probably hadn’t slept in a couple days and was clearly in one of my more manic stages. They rolled their eyes, they chuckled about me, at me. “Tell me about this key,” said one as I recall.

It is not dissimilar. Ten years ago. Good God. And for what? What have I done?

It wasn’t the same revelation then, not exactly. It was more about the fact (then) that life leaves us clues all along the way. That we can decipher the messages in our day-to-day existence and string them together like so much code to construct a blueprint of all the answers we ever wanted. Confirmation. Direction. Hope. It’s a key embedded in little pieces of every moment and we just have to wake up and pay attention to watch it fly together in our hand. And then have the guts to stick it in the door.

I had been warned, I realized, at that specific moment. And I had thrust aside chunks of key while trying to throw myself bodily into the locked door. These ideas and others assembled to form many theories of my theology, one of the first times I might’ve coined to myself that awareness is never enough – it must always be wonder.

So it’s a different key, a different brand of freedom that I’m looking at here and now. It’s rooted in the same realities (how many realities are there, anyway?), but carries a distinct tenor and pitch. Take a machete to the things hanging over one’s head. Get away from time in the seat. Shed, shed, shed. This is careening, screaming from the bulwark of my mental fortress.

But what’s in a year? What harm could a year do? Just one more year, needling away, begging for fulfillment.

Is there ever “just another year”? How much time in the seat has been procured with such a false promise? Tomorrow never comes, so do we ever reach the conclusion of that ‘nother annum? Conclusions are always reached eventually, but rarely on our terms and almost universally too soon. There’s no more “just another year” ’round that time either.

Since all this is about time in the seat, it’s worth noting that life is a lot like a college class. In the end, one doesn’t remember most of what was learned. The details blend together and fade, even if one attended every session and studied religiously. What remains, at best, are the core concepts, some key ideas. The big headlines of what one accomplished. And moments. Some really great (or awful) moments of speaking in class, or listening, or laughing. Having something click.

Life is much the same way. We mostly have time in the seat, the drudgery of countless brushings of teeth and eating of food and opening the mailbox. Thousands of hours of work. Thousands of hours of commuting. Thousands of hours of video games or TV or playing ball.

In the end, whatever’s left to remember comes down to the highlights, the accomplishments, the really worthwhile stuff that was done. Thresholds, good and bad. And moments. Little crystallized moments. It’s a lot like what you might remember from childhood now, only more heavily edited.

So doesn’t it make sense to prioritize those highlights over the rest of the drudge?

Somewhat contradictorily, however, I believe that we will all experience a full life-in-review session shortly after death. A spiritual adviser (an angel, if you prefer) will grab a metaphorical seat next to us on a metaphorical couch and enjoin us to a years-long viewing of our life on a metaphorical television. Our Town meets TiVo. It’ll be about as grueling to experience as Our Town, but not optional or selective. And as engrossing as TiVo, in the end. But with no fast-forward, only rewind and pause.

If we all lived with that in mind, how much time would we spend on the rote and the routine? How many “just another year”s would we sign on for? I bet there’d be a lot more spontaneity, a bit more self-awareness, a whole bunch more thought and examination. Just imagine, pretend you believe my theory for a moment. “I’m going to have to watch every single moment of this again, in real time.” Not just analyze and consider and discuss, but freaking watch. I will see this all again. No matter how sick I am of this workplace/school/seat/neighborhood, I will have, exactly, this much time here again, even if I leave this second forever.

What would you change if you knew this to be the case?

It’s one of those Pascalian/Platonic things that I think it might be worth believing even if it’s complete bunk. Internalize it, believe it, live it. I could say “search your feelings; you know it to be true”… but it might not wash for you. Try living one day with that awareness.

Maybe you’ll find it oppressive. Maybe it’ll be another thing hanging over your head. But maybe… maybe not. Maybe it’s just the kick in the pants you need.

I write this all, expound on it, because I need a kick in the pants. I need a kick in the pants. I need to figure all this out. Oh yes, I have my reasons, but so does everybody. At the end of the day, one can believe their own reasons, but really for no more than “just another year”. Really. No more. And maybe not even that. Because, well, see above.

I spent a lot of my life convinced I was going to be a high-school teacher. Talk about your time in the seat. But I was sure that this was where I could do some good, be inspiring, devote my life to change and all. Of course I always really wanted to be a writer, but writers seem to need day jobs, at least for a little while. Day job considerations have never much competed with writing in any real sense – when one knows one’s calling, the rest is just getting by. Fulfilling obligations. You know the drill.

So the priorities for a day job always looked to be (A) not doing harm, (B) doing good, (C) not being suicidally bored. Hooray. What’s not to like about high-school teacher?

It hit me my senior year in college (something about senior years, eh?) that this would be a disaster. I was disillusioned with school, completely dissatisfied with academic experiences. I had spent the bulk of college doing the absolute minimum to keep my scholarship, trying to float by while I debated, spent time with people, and waited for the rest of my life to catch up with me. Grades had been a game for years and the whole institution was looking like a poorly-designed game by the end of it. I couldn’t wait to get out and get into a world that seemed more real.

And it hit me all at once, just like some narrative revelation: the ultimate futility of what I was hoping to accomplish as a high-school teacher. The best thing, the best thing I could ever offer to a student would be the following:
1. Inspire them and raise them out of a difficult background.
2. Convince them to take studying very seriously and embrace academics.
3. Help them get into a good college, where
4. They could have the same revelations about academics that I just did.

Thanks, teach.

Oh sure, there might be some real and tangible benefits along the way and I’m not here meaning to condemn the work of high-school teachers. But the soul-crushing philosophical circularity of that reality, much less of calling that circularity some kind of inspiration or joy, was overwhelming. It was hard to breathe. Out went the gameplan for high-school teacher. The rest, as they say, is history.

Almost six years of history. Trying to become seven… “just another year”. You could call it the JAY theory. Get out your blue crayons and your ornithology books, kids. Or at least your Toronto uniforms.

It’s looking like a blue JAY.

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Subterranean Homesick Pigeons

Categories: A Day in the Life, If You're Going to San Francisco, Strangers on a Train, Tags: , ,

As I was coming out of the subway today, a pair of pigeons were going in. They weren’t quite to the faregate yet, but I doubt any BART security would kick up much of a fuss over two small birds.

They were wandering, pecking and peeking around in that cautious, almost shy way that pigeons amble when they’re not surrounded by hundreds of other competitive pigeons. No doubt it’s a crumb of food or something that looks like food that first leads them down this path. Probably not left deliberately, but one never knows. Down the first staircase, around the corner, the next staircase, and then the long white-floored expanse of empty fluorescent glow.

It has to be two pigeons – it seems somehow unlikely that just one would make the venture underground. I’ve probably seen it before, but it was frantic, somehow incongruous and unsettling. The solo pigeon is well aware that there is something amiss in unfamiliar settings. The pigeon pair can reassure each other, make certain, give a gentle cooing signal that everything’s going to be all right. We don’t realize just how much animals communicate with each other, how everyone has a way of talking.

So they explore and wander. Pecking at the flat black specks of color in the long white hallways. Cocking their heads to pry their gaze into a passing human’s eye. Maybe, after a time, pausing to decorate the floor or starting away in fright at a lurching playful child.

This situation can’t end that well, though I didn’t stick around to observe conclusions. Eventually the pigeons will test their ability to fly, find themselves strangely hampered by the lid on the air. Thus limited, there may be a small amount of discomfort and even panic as they try to discern where they can take to their wings. Eventually the humans will tire of the scat and flapping, seeking to chase their source back to where they belong. But if you’ve ever watched someone trying to herd pigeons, they are almost perversely averse to such corralling. Even if someone has their best interests at heart. They will take just enough flight to get behind you. Duck around the sides. Go briefly in the right direction only to amble back to their initial interest point.

Gradually more disoriented, unable to reconcile their new location with any prior place, they will tire and weaken. Feeling threatened, they will continue to peck at any who approach too closely. No food, more scat, high stress. Eventually, exhaustion. And then either de facto escape or retirement.

Some pigeons carry messages. Tied to their leg. In their beak perhaps. Steadily seeking out humans. Waiting patiently for them to read. And perhaps reply.

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The Wheels on the Bus Fall Off and Off

Categories: A Day in the Life, But the Past Isn't Done with Us, If You're Going to San Francisco, Tags: , ,

Did you feel that?

Monday was sort of cruising along and everything was going pretty swimmingly. Then morning became afternoon and soon, the day hit a wall like so many bugs catching up to a speeding automobile windshield. Wham. And that’s the ballgame.

I’ve been mulling a post about a unique and uniquely productive Sunday, in which Em and I ventured into the city of my work (San Francisco) and took in the “church” “Celebration” at the place of my work (Glide) and then a play by Em’s favorite playwright (Athol Fugard) with the music of a mutually respected artist (Tracy Chapman). It was good. The celebrating and play-watching were not perfect and there were disconnects, but it was a solid Sunday with the brimming of hope and promise and a little bit more energy, focus, togetherness.

Wham.

I write a lot about feelings and moods and the emotional reality that underlies what appears to be going on. I think a lot of people roll their eyes at this stuff. For those people, I guess I also write about hard facts, like politics or baseball or what I did on my summer vacation. But rarely, oh rarely, is it what’s really going on. Most of the time, what’s really going on is what people can’t know or nail down as fact. It’s the inkling in the back of one’s mind, the ebb and flow of ability to focus and relate, to feel and be felt. The undercurrent that’s always at the edge of consciousness, beckoning to a deeper sense of understanding. But oh, it’s real. More real than the clutter we fill our lives with or the time we spend in various seats (school, work, obligation).

All one has to seek is confirmation. Just articulate what you’re feeling, yield to the emotional authenticity and the reality of it all, and you’ll understand that you’re not alone. You’re not the only one thinking and feeling. You may be more ready to let people know (or less), more willing to embrace (or less), but it’s there for everyone. To deny it is like denying the sun just because there are cloudy days and night.

And I’m telling you, folks, the wheels fell off about 2 PM Pacific. Clunk. Clunk.

I heard Cecil Williams preach on Sunday, apparently a rare treat these days in his advancing years. I joked with Emily afterwards that he was telling me to quit my job (at his organization), embracing a message of truth and freedom that seemed to be beckoning me pell-mell to yield entirely to creative urges, to take the leap of faith to full-time writing at the expense of the comforts and hindrances of a day job. It was all in there. Sure, it was also about substance abuse and living on the street and shedding materialism, but it was about my story too. Whether it’s popcorn or people who threaten us, our time is fixed here and no one gets to stay later than they get to. Not even you.

I used to run a debate case about knowing the date of one’s death, if given the omniscient and presupposed choice. It was opp-choice and it was perhaps my favorite case to just plain old debate. Every round was different, every pick was thoughtful, almost every round advanced my understanding of what it was to live on the planet. And like many cases people run, it seemed entirely one-sided to me personally. I could make the right arguments for every side, but I think anyone who wouldn’t choose, right now, at this second, to find out the precise date of their death, is completely crazy.

Get busy living or get busy dying. And one helps determine the other and how it’s best spent.

Of course, the old argument goes that one should prepare for the worst and hope for the best. Don’t squander everything for today, but live as though you could die tomorrow and feel okay about it. Maybe not good, but certainly okay.

I’m a long way from that, as (I’d guess) are you. And the more we have afternoons like this one, the more it feels it matters.

This is the only life you’ll be living here. Take a good long look.

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